Men who are diagnosed with early stage, low-risk prostate cancer can now avail of an advanced form of treatment which spares them from having to undergo several sessions of radiotherapy or surgery.
The once-off treatment, which involves the implantation of radiotherapy seeds directly into the prostate, was previously only available in Galway but it has now been extended to other cancer centres around the country.
The treatment, known as brachytherapy, involves the use of specialised equipment which can strategically place radioactive seeds inside the prostate gland where they stay targeting malignant tissue.
Over 100 men received the treatment in Galway and another 300 will benefit annually after its rollout.
A spokeswoman for the Irish Cancer Society said: "For men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the option of brachytherapy means just one visit to the cancer centre, which is more convenient for patients who may otherwise require seven to eight weeks of daily external radiotherapy sessions or surgery.
"Some patients, with higher risk features, may need other additional treatments such as a short course of radiation and/or hormone therapy."
She said that the treatment has been available to patients in the west on a local basis for the past five years through Professor Frank Sullivan, a radiation oncologist, who has been successfully treating patients in Galway University Hospital since 2007.
It is now possible to extend it due to the appointment of new consultants and investment in new equipment in St Luke's Hospital Rathgar, Dublin, and Cork University Hospital.
The incidence of prostate cancer in Ireland is the highest in Europe with over 3,000 men diagnosed with the disease every year.
Prof Sullivan said: "This is a very exciting development for prostate cancer services in Ireland."
The men referred for the national service will have already been seen in one of the rapid access clinics which were set up in eight designated cancer centres over the past three years.